Impressions: Nikon D800

I’ve been busy lately.  I’ve had the D800 for about 4 months now and I’ve already taken 10,000 pictures!   Four weddings, three engagement shoots, three family portrait shoots,  one 50th anniversary, one 50th birthday party, product shots, and now I’m doing the directory shots for our church.  Whew.  I need a beer.

A little background before I get into it:  I started with a Minolta Film camera.  I had to write down all the settings for each picture, then get the film developed!  Ugh.  It was archaic!  After that I got my first digital camera, the Nikon D50. I used that for about 4 years until I upgraded to the D7000.  I had that for about 2 years before I got the D800.  Side note:  That’s a jump from 6MP, to 16MP (which I thought was ridiculous) to 36MP (which is ridiculous!).  Based on this trend, my next camera will be 66MP and I’ll be getting it in 8 months!!! (more…)


Impressions: Nikon 50mm F/1.2 AI-S

I’d gone back and forth for a little while about trading in my 50mm F/1.8 for the f/1.4 but couldn’t justify twice the cost for only a 1/2 stop of extra aperture…  So, I did some research and found out that Nikon still makes a 50mm F/1.2.  Now that I could justify.  I decided that I’d buy it used since a new copy costs a little more then I wanted to pay.  Now, I never buy used lenses.  If you’ve ever seen the insides of some modern lenses, you’ll know why.  This is not a modern lens.  It was originally released in 1978, and it’s all steel and glass.


DIY: Speedlight mount

I recently bought some white shoot through umbrellas and found that while they do a great job of spreading out the light nice and evenly, you loose a lot of power.  Having one speed light sometimes just isn’t enough, especially if you use low powered cheap manual flashes or if you want a decent recycle time.  So with that in mind, I set out to create something I could mount at least two speedlights to.  Here’s what I came up with.


Review: Vanguard SBH-250 Ball Head

I’ve been looking at getting a new tripod head for a little while now.  I’ve been using the one that came with my tripod for over a year and it gets the job done, but it’s definitely lacking a lot of useful features…  I’d been looking at a few different brands, namely Manfrotto, Really Right Stuff and Gitzo to name a few, but they are all pretty darn expensive.  So I did a little digging and came up with Vanguard.  I’d never heard of them but all the reviews were positive and I found one that fit my needs.  So I took the plunge and bought the Vanguard SBH-250 Ball Head.

At $70 it’s significantly cheaper then some of the other heads I’d been looking at so I was a little nervous about where they’d cut corners to get it at that price point.  After using it for a few weeks, I’m now wondering why those others are so expensive!  Seeing as this is only the second tripod head I’ve ever owned, the first specifically bought, I cant say I have much experience in the matter.  Either way, onward and upward!


So the world didn’t end, now what?

December 21st, 2012 came and went and there are no zombies gnawing on my flesh nor have all the continents shifted causing me to flee from disasters in random vehicles; now what? I guess this means I’ll have to get my act together…

I figure before I make my new resolution I’d take a look at where I am now, then where I’m going… (more after the jump)

Photography first:

  • I just did my largest group portrait, at 37 it was an exercise in crowd control and a chance to think on my feet. It was pouring rain/sleeting all day so being outside was out of the question. Luckily they had a huge family room that they let me rearrange. So, I broke out my lights, gave everyone a topic and told them to talk amongst themselves while I set up. Ok, f/5.6 for DoF and 1/250 to hit my x-sync and block out as much ambient as I could since I had a lot of different color lights in the room to contend with. I wanted to do it at ISO 100, but I also didn’t want to blind everyone (and with the kids I wanted a good recycle speed) so I settled on 320. For my key light I put one white shoot through umbrella camera right with 2 Yongnuo 460ii’s at about 1/4 power. Seeing as I forgot my other umbrella, I used my SB700 and pointed it at the ceiling and used a bounce card for my fill. Since there were so many children, I set my frame rate to 4fps and took groups of 3 shot bursts. Even with 9 pictures I still had to Photoshop the kids’ faces. Looking back on it, I should have paid more attention to people’s faces. I lost one child in the back row to someone’s shoulder… We did smaller group shots so it wasn’t a total loss. I should have also remembered that other umbrella due to the amount of light fall off I got across the group. I had to brighten the top left corner of people almost a full stop!

Impressions: Nikon 24-70 f/2.8

It is awesome!

I have 3 dream lenses: Nikon’s 14-24 f/2.8, Nikon’s 24-70 f/2.8, and Nikon’s 70-200 f/2.8.  It took me a while but I finally saved up enough to get the 24-70 and it definitely doesn’t disappoint!

What is so great about this lens?  Everything.  More specifically the focal range, the focus speed, the build quality, the optical quality, and the lens hood just to name a few things…

  • Focal range:  There is a good reason Nikon made this lens range from 24mm to 70mm, it’s probably the most useful focal range for ‘everyday’ use.  24mm is wide enough to get a full family in and 70mm is great for portraits.   It’ll be interesting to see how this changes when I get a full-frame camera body (this lens set my savings to zero, so it’s gonna take a while to get the D800!) and lose that extra reach…
  • Focus speed:  Not all lenses are created equal, this lens blows every other lens I have out of the water. The only way I can think to describe the focus speed on this lens is with a little experiment.  Get an empty beer bottle and a AA battery.  If you pick up the beer bottle at the very top with your thumb and middle finger, try to spin it back and forth.  Get a feel for the weight and how much force it takes to spin it.  Now do the same with the AA battery.  Now imagine a tiny motor trying to spin the same two objects.  Obviously the motor will be able to spin the battery faster because it weighs less.  This is how the 24-70 feels.
    The focus ring only rotates about 90 degrees between stops.  This means you need to be really accurate if you’re focusing manually, like say for video.
  • Build quality:  It’s definitely the heaviest lens I own and feels solid.  I’m expecting this lens to last a real long time.  The focus ring and zoom ring have a good solid feel to them and their movement is very smooth.
  • Lens hood:  I know it’s a weird thing to like in a lens but this lens has a cool feature that I like.  The lens hood locks in place with a little button clasp so it wont fall off.  I wish my sigma 10-20 lens hood had something like this, I’m constantly worried the slightest bump is going to knock it loose and I’m going to lose it.
  • Optical quality:  The optical quality is excellent!  It’s almost as sharp as my 85mm f/1.8.  I recently got my first chance to try it out by doing some family portraits at Silver Lake Park.  I might be biased, but this lens is really awesome.  Everything looks better through it!  The colors seem a little more vibrant and it seems to have more contrast… Again, I might be projecting things that are not there.

If you want a more technical review here, here, and here are good places.

Walk off! Fall Beers.

“Hey, I got a wacky idea.  What say we settle this on the runway?”
But Dave, I’ve heard some crazy stories…
“Put a cork in it Zane!”
Its a walk-off!

So, for the first in a new series of beer reviews, I’m going with fall beers.  Here’s the lineup: head’s Punk.  Its the classic, the returning champ.  It’ll be defending against new comers like Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale and Old Dominions Spiced Harvest Ale.

Punk is one of the ones I look forward to every year.  The first taste from that first bottle of the season reminds you of the kind of dedication Dogfish head puts into their beers.  Punk is balanced but definitely on the sweeter side.  They can sometimes have a slight syrupy taste to them, but that’s kinda true of most dogfish beers in my opinion.  It also has a good brown sugary aftertaste which balances out the spiciness.  This is definitely going to be a hard act to follow…

 Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale is next up on the chopping block.  I’m normally a fan of Samuel Adams but this was my least favorite of the bunch.  I felt it was kinda bland with a slight saison herby taste to it with a little of a Belgian after taste.  It did have a pumpkin aftertaste but I felt it was too subdued and the whole thing just came off as a brown ale with a pumpkin label on the bottle…

Last but not least is Old Dominion’s Spiced Harvest Ale, and it’s a Delaware Native!  I really enjoyed this one.  It really tastes like drinking a pumpkin pie!  That might not sound appetizing, but it works in this beer.  It is sweet without being syrupy and I found that even though that strong pumpkin pie taste is only really present in the first sip, the spices are still noticeable until the end.

So, who wins this walk-off?  I’d say Old Dominion wins by pulling its proverbially underwear out of its pants with the Spiced Harvest Ale.  Punk is still a favorite and I’ll still get a full case as soon as it hits the shelf, but that Spiced Harvest Ale is so hot right now!

As always, if you’ve had these beers, feel free to comment with your opinion of them.

DIY: Beauty Dish

I got the idea for this beauty dish from Todd Owyong over at  It seemed like a fun project so I decided to give it a go.  I won’t cover the how to since he does a great job with it, but I will say this; it definitely isn’t a simple build that anyone can do.  You’ll need a few power tools.  Since I have a drill press I was able to easily drill the holes for the reflector, but if you don’t have one, it’ll be a bit more difficult I think (you need slow RPMs for drilling through metal).  You will need a Dremel to cut the hole out.  I tried using my drill press, pliers, and a hack saw and couldn’t do it…  I’ve been wanting a Dremel for a while now, so I bought one for $40.

I wanted to do this on a whim so I tried to find all the materials locally, which was pretty difficult.  I ended up with a 16″ steel mixing bowl and could not find a 6″ reflector, so I made my own out of some sheet metal.

As for the connection to the light stand, I just bought a cheap L bracket and bent it.

After having built one, I’ve already got some ideas for version 2.0!  I’m going to buy a larger mixing bowl and a 8″ pizza tray for the reflector and try to be a little more careful when I cut out the holes and spray paint it so it’ll look nicer.

I’ve also got a few design changes.  I think I’m going to put a handle on it, similar to what you might see on a wok, so it’s easier to carry around.  I think I’ll also cut the flash head hole slightly larger and use some duct tape to soften up the metal edge (I noticed that my flash was getting some scrapes).  As for the connection, I think I’ll stay with the L bracket, as that seems to work fine.  I’ll have to be a little more careful when I bend it so the flash lines up better…

If you decide to try it out, let me know how it goes!  Good luck.

Review: Phottix Strato II Mulit

After having and using the Yongnuo RF-603N’s extensively for about 7 months, I’ve decided that I need a better Radio Trigger, or maybe I should say, a more featured radio trigger.  Enter Phottix’s Strato II Multi radio triggers.


Quick: Dogfish Head Pearl Jam Twenty Faithfull Ale

Name: Pearl Jam Twenty Faithfull Ale

Alcohol:  7%

Description:  I might be biased on this review.  DFH is one of my favorite breweries.  I like almost every beer they make.  This is no exception.  It is light and refreshing with a slight spiciness and citrus smell…  At 7% it’s deceptively strong.

Would I recommend it?  Yes, definitely.  In fact, if you see two, buy both and give one to me!

Would I get it again?  Definitely.